Sparking Art

August 1, 2006
Flags of hope: Bergman displays her work

Flags of hope: Bergman displays her work. Jon Gardiner

On display in the Smith Warehouse this spring were the works of nine students enrolled in "Image, Text, and Visual Poetics," a class taught for the first time this semester.

In the class, co-instructors Deborah Pope, professor of English, and Merrill Shatzman, associate professor of the practice of visual art, challenged students to explore the use of text through sculpture and other three-dimensional mediums.

"Words acquire different layers of meaning when you think of a word as having more than a flat dimension," Pope says. "We wanted to see if we could strike two things together and produce sparks."

Most of the students came to the class experienced in either drawing or poetry. They worked on projects and exercises that merged the two "to bring out greater possibilities of meaning," Pope says. One activity, for example, involved projecting slides of text onto a model's body. Students sketched the model with projected words or wrote poetry about what they saw. "For every project, students have taken it in really personal, individual directions," Pope says.

Rita Bergman '06 created prayer flags to describe a childhood experience with cancer. The work was more effective than a poem on paper, Pope says. "You wouldn't have gotten the metaphor of freedom and ascension that flags represented."